Recreational water users: Join the discussion and help fight AIS

Protecting the waterways of Illinois and Indiana requires everyone’s involvement. Now is your chance to voice your opinion, and help shape statewide education and outreach efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) is conducting two focus groups with area boaters, anglers, & waterfowl hunters--in Springfield, Ill., on Monday, January 9, from 6-8 p.m. and in Indianapolis, Ind. on Tuesday, January 10 from 6-8 p.m.

AIS can easily be spread by recreational water users from one infested waterbody to another. The goal of these discussions is to learn what you think about practices to reduce the spread of Asian carp, Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels and other AIS. Practices include: inspecting craft for hitchhikers, not releasing live bait in water bodies, and flushing motors.

The results of these focus groups will instrumental in designing future campaigns that are effective and speak to the people of Illinois and Indiana.

“The negative effects of AIS are often seen first by those who recreate on lakes, rivers, and ponds,” said Sarah Zack, IISG aquatic invasive species specialist. “For example, invasive aquatic weeds can choke waterways, preventing fun activities, like boating, fishing, and swimming.” Food web changes caused by AIS can trigger declines in game fish populations, impacting recreational fishing. Asian carp, a fast growing invasive fish, has even been known to jump out of the water and strike boaters and personal watercraft users.

Most people will use a lake, river, pond or creek for recreation at some point or another in their lives – there are over four million registered boats and two million anglers in the Great Lakes region alone. All types of boaters, anglers, waterfowl hunters, and other water users are invited to take part in the focus group.

A small monetary compensation for participation will be provided. The specific meeting location will be disclosed upon registration. For more information, contact Sarah Zack at szack@illinois.edu. To register, please contact Erin Seekamp by phone at (618) 453-7463 or email at eseekamp@siu.edu.

IISG is one of 32 programs nationwide that address a number of coastal issues through research, education and outreach. The program is committed to informing the public about the problems posed by AIS as well as how to prevent their spread.


IISG in the news: Macon County residents get rid of unwanted medications safely

It isn't always easy to do the right thing. Especially when it comes to properly disposing of unused medicine. But, in Macon County, Illinois residents can now get unused controlled substances, such as pain medications, out of their houses. IISG recently purchased a collection box for the Maroa Police Department. This program is, in fact, the only place in Macon County that can accept controlled substances. All medications collected will be incinerated; keeping the drugs off of the streets and out of the water.
Read more about the collection program in Macon County at the Herald-Review.


Illinois Water Resources Center is seeking proposals

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the National Institutes for Water Resources, is seeking proposals for research on topics related to improving and enhancing the nation’s water supply, including (but not limited to): enhancement of water supply infrastructure, development of drought impact indicators, evaluation of the dynamics of extreme hydrological events and associated costs, development of methods for better estimation of the physical and economic supply of water, integrated management of ground and surface waters, the resilience of public water supplies, and the evaluation of conservation practices. Proposals are sought in not only the physical dimensions of supply, but also the role of economics and institutions in water supply and in coping with extreme hydrologic conditions.

Proposed projects can be 1 to 3 years in duration and may request up to $250,000 in federal funds. Successful applicants must match each dollar of the federal grant with one dollar from non-federal sources. Proposals must be filed on the Internet at https://niwr.net/ by 4:00 PM, Eastern Time, Thursday, February 23, 2012.

Any investigator at an accredited institution of higher learning in the United States is eligible to apply for a grant through a Water Research Institute or Center.

The full RFP is available at https://niwr.net/competitive_grants/RFP. In Illinios, contact Lisa Merrifield, lmorrisn@illinois.edu or 217-333-0045 for more about the Illinois Water Resources Center.

In Indiana contact Ron Turco, rturco@purdue.edu or 765-494-8077, for more information. 


FAQs on the Buffalo River remediation get answers

The Buffalo River was subjected to a great deal of industrial contamination years ago. Efforts at pollution prevention and cleanup have helped to rehabilitate the water way, but a great deal of contamination still exists in the sediment at the bottom of the river. These contaminants can still have a negative effect on economic, social, and environmental uses of the river, but an ongoing collaboration between a number of agencies is working right now to clean up and restore the river bottom.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER, Honeywell and several other affiliated public and private entities have teamed up to complete a two-year dredging project that will remove 1.2 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment, which will provide a clean and supportive environment for local, native species to flourish.

Part of the work is being performed under the Great Lakes Legacy Act, which revitalizes once-thriving waterways through sediment cleanups and restoration. The act requires at least 35 percent of the project cost to come from non-federal partners. IISG’s Environmental Social Scientist Caitie McCoy has provided expertise for the project. For example, she prepared the publication The Buffalo River Restoration Project: Frequently Asked Questions. The FAQ gives detailed information on the Buffalo River Restoration Project, including the project’s timeframe, funding, impact, and more.


Aquaponics makes the most of water safely and naturally

What do you get when you combine an aquarium, a greenhouse, and a fish farm? The answer is aquaponics.

Aquaponics is the process of operating fish farming and hydroponic plant farming in a contained system where the water is circulated, filtered, and reused between both. Here's how it works. The water in the fish tanks builds up waste that need to be filtered out to keep the fish healthy. But this waste can actually provides nutrients for plant growth so in an aquaponic setup, that water is used to hydroponically grown plants. The plant roots filter the water by taking up and using these valuable nutrients. By circulating the water through the system in this way, both the plants and the fish benefit, and the water is reused. The system also provides a natural environment where vegetables, herbs, and fish are all raised organically.

For a great explanation of the process, as well as a tour of what an aquaponic system can look like, watch this video from the Purdue University Extension office.

If you would like to learn more about aquaponics, contact IISG Aquaculture Marketing Specialist Kwamena Quagrainie.


Indiana planners take action on climate change, green infrastructure

As the year ends, top ten lists begin to crop up, putting the year's events in perspective and celebrating accomplishments. IISG has put together our own list of successes from projects that have come to fruition in recent years, and here is an example: 

IISG presented a seminar on climate change, land use, and human health impacts to the Northern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) Environmental Management Planning Committee. The seminar led to the development of a climate change steering committee, which drafted a resolution on climate change for the NIRPC Board of Trustees. Sea Grant also participated in this process.

The NIRPC Board of Trustees approved the resolution requiring that any future planning and funding efforts that NIRPC puts forth incorporate climate change components, especially green infrastructure. This kind of action provides positive action on climate change issues, both in the near term and in the future planning. It also fosters an impact at the local level, where communities and residents will benefit directly from the improvements.

To read more about the NIRPC’s commitment to the environment, visit their website here. For more information on IISG projects and their positive impacts, view our fact sheet here.


IISG provides medicine collection boxes to 15 communities

Join IISG in taking a look at some of the projects we’ve been involved in during the past year or two. There have been a number of important initiatives that are already benefiting communities throughout the Great Lakes region, and here is just one example:

Flushing unused medicines is a bad idea. for aquatic wildlife, and for us--these chemicals can end up in local rivers and streams as well as drinking water sources.  IISG has been at the forefront in efforts to to raise awareness on this issue and to help communities organize local medicine collection programs.

IISG and the Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal Program created permanent medicine collection programs in several Great Lakes communities, and Sea Grant has purchased 15 medicine collection boxes for communities that now have ongoing pharmaceutical collection programs in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

As a result of the program, 15 Great Lakes communities collected 4,600 pounds of medicine in 2010 alone, preventing all of that from entering the water supply and negatively impacting the environment.
Pictured here is the drop box in Peru, Illinois and the local team that worked to make it happen. For more information on medicine collection programs and proper disposal of pharmaceuticals, visit the IISG webpage on Safe Disposal of Unwanted Medicines. And or more information on IISG projects and their positive impacts, view our fact sheet here.


IISG in the news: UW, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Programs Team Up to Produce Area of Concern Video

IISG  and Wisconsin Sea Grant and are teaming up teaming up to produce a public information video that’s designed to inform anglers, boaters, marina operators and local businesses of the benefits that can come from cleaning up Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOC).
From the WSG website:
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are currently 49 Great Lakes AOCs, sites where water and sediment quality have become severely degraded. And chances are good that residents have absolutely no idea they may be living in one.
The video, funded by a grant from the EPA Great Lakes National Program Office, will feature several Great Lakes AOCs, including the Sheboygan River AOC, the Milwaukee Estuary AOC, the Muskegon Lake AOC, and the Grand Calumet River AOC (pictured here). Caitie McCoy, a social scientist with IISG, will interview people who live and work in these AOCs, and UW Sea Grant videographer John Karl will shoot and edit the footage into a five- to seven-minute video. Read more here.


Green infrastructure becomes policy in Illinois

As 2011 winds down, top ten lists begin to crop up, putting the year in review and celebrating recent accomplishments. IISG has put together our own list of successes that have come to fruition in recent years. Here is just one example:

Illinois EPA provided funding to IISG to study the costs and effectiveness of green infrastructure as a way to replace or supplement existing stormwater management. The study showed that on average, green infrastructure practices are equally effective in managing stormwater, while costing less to establish and maintain. Martin Jaffe, environmental planning specialist, presented these findings to the Illinois General Assembly.

As a result, the Illinois General Assembly established a $5 million discretionary fund to support green infrastructure projects in communities throughout the state. In addition, because of this study, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning 2040 Regional Comprehensive Plan, adopted in the fall of 2010, recommended incorporating green infrastructure practices in future development.

Managing urban stormwater is a significant matter facing communities throughout the U.S. – including northeastern Illinois and surrounding areas. Increasing storm intensity and aging infrastructure are combined threats to existing stormwater management, but green infrastructure may provide a useful and effective approach to these issues.

For more information on IISG projects and their positive impacts, view our fact sheet here. And to learn more about the Green Infrastructure Plan for Illinois, view the State’s EPA website, complete with details on the plan, here.